While Instagram is filled with sunrise photos of Charleston’s beaches, sunset photos aren’t nearly as common. But, they are often equally, if not more, spectacular. We get some incredible sunsets, and you can take the perfect sunset photo in Charleston year-round—if you know where to go.
This isn’t the first list of the best spots for sunset photos in Charleston, and it most likely won’t be the last. But, we’ve tried to be selective based on two key factors. The first is our own experience photographing the sunset in Charleston. These are 10 of our personal favorites for taking photos of the sunset without getting on a boat.
The second is that all of these locations are completely free to visit. You don’t need to pay to eat at a restaurant, take a dinner cruise, or rent a vacation home on Kiawah or Seabrook. These are all public locations that you can visit by car—or even on foot if you live nearby.
So, if you want to capture the perfect photo of the sunset in Charleston, what do you need to know? Here are our top 10 free locations, some tips for taking sunset photos, and a map you can use to get to each spot on our list:
- Where To Go for Incredible Sunset Photos in Charleston
- 5 Tips for Getting the Perfect Sunset Photo in Charleston
- Map of the Best Spots for Sunset Photos in Charleston
Where To Go for Incredible Sunset Photos in Charleston
While we usually do our lists alphabetically to avoid any indication of endorsement or favoritism, for this list we’re going geographically from north to south. Our first spot to take the perfect sunset photo is on Sullivan’s Island, and we’re finishing up on Edisto Island.
1. Station 16 on Sullivan’s Island
Our first spot for the perfect sunset photo in Charleston is the public beach access at Station 16 on Sullivan’s Island. This is also the location of the Sullivan’s Island nature trail. Alternatively, you can park at Battery Jasper (on Poe Avenue at Station 14) and take the path to the beach. Whichever spot you choose, you’ll want to head as far west on the beach as you can. Here, you’ll be able to shoot the sunset over Fort Sumter, downtown Charleston, or the Ravenel Bridge depending on the time of year.
2. Pitt Street Bridge
The Pitt Street Bridge in Mount Pleasant is another great place to capture the sunset over downtown Charleston. Pitt Street Bridge is a linear park located at the end of (you guessed it) Pitt Street, which passes through the Mount Pleasant Historic District. There is street parking at the end of the road, and you can walk to the end of the unfinished bridge for a look back toward downtown Charleston and the Ravenel Bridge.
3. Shem Creek Boardwalk and Coleman Boulevard Pedestrian Path
Shem Creek is another great place to take the perfect sunset photo in Charleston, and it is located right in the heart of Mount Pleasant. While you can certainly eat at one of Shem Creek’s waterfront restaurants and take a photo at dinner with the sunset in the background, there are also some great spots where you can take a photo without paying (and take as much time as you want). These include:
- Shem Creek Boardwalk – You can access the Shem Creek Boardwalk from the parking lot on Shrimp Boat Lane. If you walk all the way to the end of the covered pier, you’ll have an expansive view of the Charleston harbor over Crab Bank.
- Coleman Boulevard Pedestrian Path – From the same parking lot, you can also access the pedestrian path on Coleman Boulevard that goes over Shem Creek. If you stop right in the middle of the creek, you’ll have a classic photo of the boats in the creek with the sunset in the background.
4. Mount Pleasant Pier
The Mount Pleasant Pier is one of two places to go (along with our next option) if you want to photograph the Ravenel Bridge up close. From the end of the Mount Pleasant Pier, you’ll be looking up at the bottom of the bridge from its north side—and this is as close as you can get to the bridge’s spires without getting on a boat. You’ll have Drum Island just a bit farther away and the peninsula in the background.
If you don’t live within walking distance, you can park in the Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park parking lot under the Ravenel Bridge. Set your GPS destination to 99 Harry M. Hallman Jr. Boulevard.
5. Ferry Wharf
Ferry Wharf is located on the other side of the Ravenel Bridge from the Mount Pleasant Pier. Here, you’re a bit farther away from the bridge and a bit farther back, so you can get the whole span of the bridge in your sunset photo (if you choose to do so). You can also shoot the sunset over the peninsula across the Charleston harbor if it’s the right time of year. There is a walking path that connects the Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park parking lot to Ferry Wharf, which is located in front of the Embassy Suites.
6. Ravenel Bridge
Another option for shooting sunset photos in Charleston is to take your photos from the Ravenel Bridge itself. From the Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park parking lot, you can follow the path to the Mount Pleasant side of the bridge and take the pedestrian walkway up to the first or second spire. The walk from the downtown Charleston side is a bit longer, but equally worth the effort.
7. Folly River Boat Ramp
The Folly River Boat Ramp is located on the inland side of Folly Island. If you are driving onto the island, you will take your first right once you cross over the river. If you are vacationing at Folly Beach, you can walk down Center Street, staying on the sidewalk the entire way.
You can either shoot your sunset photo from the grassy area by the river, or you can walk onto the bridge (it has sidewalks on both sides). There are often sailboats anchored in the river; and, if the water is calm, you will get an incredible reflection of the sky. From here you have a long view over undisturbed marsh beyond the boats and docks in the foreground.
8. Folly Beach County Park
Another great place to go for sunset photos on Folly Island is Folly Beach County Park. You can either drive into the park (and park for free if you have a Gold Pass from the CCPRC), or park outside of the gate and walk or bike in. You’ll want to walk all the way to the southern tip of the island, where you’ll have an expansive westward view of Bird Key, the marshes and small islands on the opposite side of the Folly River, and the Stono River farther behind.
Folly Beach County Park closes at sunset, so you’ll need to be prepared to pack up and head out after you get the perfect photo. It will take a few minutes to walk back to the parking lot (or to the gate if you walked or biked in), so please be respectful to the staff and make sure to leave yourself enough time to get back before they’re ready to close the gates and call it a day.
9. Bohicket Marina
Bohicket Marina is located on Seabrook Island, at 1800 Andell Bluff Boulevard. To get there, drive through Johns Island toward Freshfields Village, and go right at the roundabout. The entrance to the marina will be the second right after that.
Bohicket Marina has a long boardwalk along the water’s edge, with expansive marsh views across Bohicket Creek. You can either stay near the parking lot and take photos with the sailboat masts in the foreground, or walk to the end of the boardwalk for an unobstructed sunset view. While Bohicket Marina is slightly off the beaten path if you’re used to staying closer to the peninsula, the photo opportunity is well worth it. You can also have dinner at the marina or in Freshfields Village before you start the drive back home.
10. Bay Point at Edisto Beach
Another option slightly off the beaten path is Bay Point at Edisto Beach. Bay Point is located at the southern tip of Edisto Beach. You can navigate to the public beach access point at 2904 Point Street; and, if you can’t find parking right here, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a spot nearby in the evening. There are several other public beach access points nearby as well, and any of these will work just as well.
From Bay Point, you can shoot west over the water toward Otter Island. This is the gateway to the ACE Basin, one of the most beautiful and undisturbed coastal areas on the entire East Coast. The views are endless, and you should be able to get a good shot no matter where the sun is setting in the sky.
5 Tips for Getting the Perfect Sunset Photo in Charleston, SC
Now that we’ve covered our top spots for photographing the sunset in Charleston, here are five tips for getting the perfect sunset photo.
- Get There Early – No matter which spot you choose, you’ll want to get there before the sun starts to set. This will give you time to explore the area and pick the exact spot where you want to take your photos. It will also help you avoid frantically hunting for a parking spot as the sun starts to sink below the horizon.
- Adjust Your Settings – If you’ve been shooting in the bright sunlight all day, you’ll need to adjust your settings for the sunset. If you’ve been using a neutral density (ND) filter, now is probably a good time to take it off. Bring your tripod, and set your shutter speed with a focus on making sure you don’t underexpose the foreground or overexpose the sky. Of course, if you're taking photos with your phone, then all you have to do is tap the screen to choose your focal point when the time is right.
- Shoot in Landscape – This is down to personal preference, but I tend to favor sunset photos shot in landscape (as opposed to portrait). This is especially true when shooting wide and expansive views like Shem Creek, the Folly River, the Ravenel Bridge, or the ACE Basin.
- Don’t Forget About Manual Focus – Many cameras have trouble focusing automatically when your focal point is the sky. So, don’t forget about your camera’s manual focus functionality, and simply turn off your camera’s autofocus if it isn’t giving you the shots you want.
- Take (and Keep) Lots of Pictures – When shooting something like the sunset, it’s easy to snap a picture and call it a day. But, from exposure issues to issues with autofocus, there are a variety of things that can go wrong. So, stay for a while and take plenty of photos (and don’t delete any based on what you see in your viewfinder or on your screen). Once you get home, then you can go back through and carefully decide which ones to keep. Plus, the longer you stay, the more the sky will change, and you might end up with some incredible photos that you weren’t necessarily planning to take.
Map of the Best Spots for Sunset Photos in Charleston
If you want to take the perfect sunset photo in Charleston, we hope you’ll be able to use the information in this article to get just the shot you want. You can also use this map we’ve created to figure out exactly where to go:
If you get the perfect sunset photo, please let us know! Or, if you have another favorite sunset spot in Charleston, let us know that, too. Tag us on Instagram @life_charleston.
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